My daughter requires that I lay with her for naps. She’s 8.5 months old and stirs awake between sleep cycles. If I am here beside her she will stir, her gaze will find me, and sometimes she’ll drift back to sleep. More often than that, she will stir with closed eyes and open mouth, rooting for the comfort of the breast to ease her back to sleep. If I am not here beside her when she stirs and hovers momentarily in the land between asleep and awake, she will awaken fully and cry out for me; her nap will end prematurely, leaving her sleep deprived and cranky.
And so, two or three times a day I stop what I am doing and take my daughter to bed. We share a bed in the master bedroom, a comfortable queen. The room is kept dark and cool no matter the time of day or the weather outside. It is our shared oasis.
We snuggle together as she nurses to sleep. I stroke her back and she studies my face – sometimes with her eyes and sometimes with a hand, tiny fingers stroking and poking. Many days she needs a few minutes to settle and so we play first; we talk to the ceiling fan, practice blowing raspberries, explore new sounds as she learns them, and giggle through a few tickles. When she is tired, she begins to hum while she nurses, her hands and feet slow, and she sleeps.
When she is fully asleep, I gently pull my nipple from her slack mouth and roll away. This is progress. She used to require that I stay tight to her, that she be latched on. She is slowly learning how to nap without me. Without tears, without training, without a fight to force independence she’s not ready for, she is learning.
I used to resent the time I spent laying in bed during daylight hours. I used to lay here and think about the housework or errands. I would will my daughter to nap quickly so I could get back to doing something more productive.
I realized, however, that these hours were beginning to be a delight. I’ve read more books in the last few months than I did in the decade before. I connect with other moms in online groups and forums. I slow down and blog. Everyday my daughter forces me to leave the to do list, the mess, the hustle and bustle of the day and spend a little time with her, and then with myself. I am grateful to her for this. I will miss these oasis moments when she is past the age of needing me so close.
Soon she will wake from her nap. She’ll rub her face and open her eyes. She’ll stare at the ceiling fan and blink herself awake. Sometimes she talks quietly to herself as she wakes up. Eventually, when she’s ready, she’ll turn and smile at me. She’ll find me where she left me, exactly where she expects me to be, and she’ll smile joyfully.